Former teacher Amrutha Nagarajan is the executive director of the new Michigan Network of The Achievement Network, which is charged with guiding and improving instruction in 15 Detroit schools. Having been an ANet coach in Washington, D.C., Nagarajan, a Michigan native, is excited to bring change and opportunity to students in Detroit.
Colleen Matts, farm to institution specialist at the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems, has seen kids become great farm to school ambassadors, taking their parents by the hand, sharing their knowhow about the value of locally grown food, and even telling parents where to purchase it. Matts sees kids leading the farm to school cause -- just as much as she is.
With collaboration and positive social change in the driver’s seat, Leah Kelley of Allen Neighborhood Center in Lansing is motivating youth to think more about their role in creating positive shifts in community health. She leads the center’s Youth Service Corps, which engages community youth in food access projects through hands-on work and learning activities.
When Jennifer Rusciano was in fourth grade, she explored the origins of her favorite chocolate bar, connecting it to cocoa farms in Ghana. Years later, a college fellowship led her to live and work in small-scale cocoa farming communities around the world, exploring the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. After that, she joined FoodCorps in Michigan for two years, and eventually helped develop Detroit Food Academy, where she currently serves as executive director of operations.
Since 1983, Susan Ledy, with a background in teaching, has been at the helm of the Literacy Center of West Michigan working to improve literacy in a way that positively impacts adults, families, companies, schools and the entire community.
Marjorie Kuipers is concerned for kids who do not have enough food, who lack coats, boots and mittens to warm them, and who lack the opportunity to spike their grades with no-cost tutors or share what they learn with their families. Kuiper is the executive director of Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities, an organization that provides academic and social enrichment. She cares deeply about making a difference in the lives of struggling families.
When Ann Kalass, chief executive officer of Starfish Family Services in Inkster, was growing up, she realized early on that not all children had the same opportunities as she did. Today, she’s driven to make sure vulnerable kids get the education they need to start off life with a strong footing.
Concerned about the safety, security, and futures of homeless and vulnerable young women and girls, Amanda Good, CEO of Alternatives For Girls, has been leading efforts in Detroit to provide support, shelter, help, and hope to at-risk youth for a quarter of a century.
Michele Legleitner is program director for Runaway and Homeless Youth Regional Alliance, a fledgling organization that formed last year to better meet the needs of runaway, homeless, and disconnected youth in metro Detroit. She is charged with keeping the four alliance members working together, sharing data and infrastructure costs, and meeting their defined objectives.
Dr. A.J. Jones was raised in Battle Creek. But his was not a comfortable life; his family of seven barely scraped by, with no regular well-child exams or trips to the dentist. As CEO of the Family Health Center of Battle Creek, Jones is determined to help those in need to break the cycle of poverty through access to quality healthcare.
Sonya Grant-White, field coordinator for Community Action Against Asthma, which conducts community-based participatory research projects on air quality it Detroit, believes that a clean environment and better health outcomes for children are more important today than ever before. With passion and commitment, she says that no child should have to live next to a landfill, incinerator, factory or highway and breath unhealthy air.
Dona Abbott, branch director at Grand Rapids’ Bethany Christian Services, is a leader with many goals – all with happy, loving children and families at the forefront. When faced with demanding challenges that necessitate change, Abbott does not shy away from the resolve it takes to make changes that help and protect those she serves.
Advocacy Services for Kids is an agency devoted to supporting families and bettering children’s mental health in Kalamazoo County. Its director, Dianne Shaffer, leads with solid faith in teamwork – both within her organization and outside of it, joining with community partners who share the same goals.
Dr. Veneese Chandler worries about kids. She worries about their families, their education, and their physical and emotional well-being. As the head of the Family Outreach Center in Grand Rapids, she is confronted with these issues daily, but finds solace in her work and confidence in being backed by a staff with extensive experience and involvement in children’s welfare.
Starr Commonwealth has pioneered programs to improve the lives of the most world’s vulnerable children since 1913. Sabrina Corbin leads the international organization’s Battle Creek campus, helping academically and socially challenged young people. With various residential and day treatment programs, she and her staff strive to alleviate pain and instill hope among young people who have given up on themselves and have been tossed aside by society.